1997 Revolving Funds for Building Charter Schools
The Charter Schools Development Corporation was founded in 1997 as a philanthropically funded nonprofit with a sole focus on addressing one of the most pressing obstacles to charter-school creation today: the difficulty of financing a campus. By offering direct loans, helping arrange commercial and public financing, providing loan guarantees, and other methods, the group has financed hundreds of school facilities, serving tens of thousands of students, in 26 states. The Daniels Fund and Kauffman Foundation, other donors, and private lenders have supplied millions of dollars of seed capital, much of which is recycled back to the CSDC in loan repayments, which then become available for offering to the next generation of schools. This successful model of paying for the buildings needed by new charter schools is now also employed energetically by other nonprofits in different regions of the U.S., like Civic Builders (which works in the New York area with support from the NewSchools Venture Fund, the Gates, Dell, and Casey foundations, and others), Pacific Charter School Development (supported by some of the same donors, as well as the Ahmanson, Broad, Walton, Weingart, and Parsons foundations), and Building Hope (which backs facilities in the D.C. area). The Charter School Growth Fund also operates a Revolving Facilities Loan pool.
A recent addition to the field combines nonprofit and for-profit operations. Charter-school backer Andre Agassi founded a venture in 2011 to build campuses for charter schools around the country. The Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund combined money from Agassi and Turner Capital with funds from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and investments from banks. They are now in the process of building half a billion dollars of charter-school infrastructure over a several-year period, creating new slots for 35,000 students on 45 campuses. The fund uses its own money and design/build expertise to erect structures, playgrounds, etc. as specified by the charter partner, delivering turn-key properties that the school then pays off by pledging up to 20 percent of its per-pupil reimbursements once it is fully up and operating.
- Karl Zinsmeister, From Promising to Proven (The Philanthropy Roundtable, 2014) pp. 129-132